The Insomnia Symptoms Associated with Suicide Risk
Martin Reed | Nov 14th 2016 Apr 10th 2017
Suicide rates in the United States
According the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, there are as many as 13 suicides per 100,000 people in the United States alone, and insomnia has been linked to a greater risk for suicide.
The link between suicide risk and sleep
Although a number of studies have confirmed the link between sleep disturbance and increased suicide risk, few have fully explored why such a link may exist. A 2015 review set out to evaluate the association between insomnia symptoms and the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Mood disturbances are a common daytime symptom of insomnia. Insomnia-related problems with the biological sleep-wake system can have a negative effect on the mood regulation process, which is a known suicide risk.
Worry, anxiety, and hopelessness
Those with insomnia are more likely to worry about their sleep and its effect on their health. These thoughts can perpetuate sleep anxiety and lead to the temptation of trying to force sleep, making sleep even more difficult. The associated sense of hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicidal thoughts.
Your insomnia history
Even after controlling for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms, one study found that the duration of insomnia symptoms was significantly associated with suicide risk, making early treatment all the more important.
The best treatment
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia has been found to not only address insomnia symptoms, but also non-sleep related symptoms such as suicidal thoughts. It’s a particularly effective treatment as the components of CBT target all of the sleep-related risk factors for suicide.
The current state of research
Unfortunately, the inconsistent definitions of insomnia and what constitutes suicide risk make it difficult to adequately evaluate and compare existing research studies. Many studies exclude those with suicidal thoughts and behaviors, further hindering progress.
Don't ignore sleep issues or suicidal thoughts
If you’re having issues with sleep and/or suicidal thoughts, it’s important to speak with your doctor right away. Both issues can be successfully treated and don’t necessarily require medication.